“ARGHHHHH!” I yelled.
It was a Friday morning, and there I was in my closet, holding a terrified house cat. I had grabbed her out of her hiding place, and literally scared the pee out of her. And it went all over my leg and was dripping onto the carpet.
I shoved her into the cat crate while muttering under my breath, and reached for a clean pair of pants.
I calmly walked into the kitchen and told my husband what happened.
“You’re crazy for taking them both at the same time,” he told me (for the third time).
Yes, I admit it’s pretty ambitious to take both this crazy cat, Nellie, and our rambunctious beagle, Cooper, to the vet for their wellness checks at the same time. But hey, I’ve figured out how to take my 2-year-old and 8-month-old daughters to the pediatrician at the same time, so surely I could handle this.
Getting Nellie into the crate was my first victory. You see, Nellie is the definition of a scaredy cat. Seriously, her picture will probably come up on Google if you search for “most scared-of-life cat in the history of the universe.”
I adopted Nellie when I was fresh out of college, single, and desperate for a feline companion. I picked her out at the shelter when I saw her on one side of a crate full of kittens, curled up in a ball. All five other kittens in the same crate were on the other side, sleeping together. Immediately I said, “I’ll take that loner.” Her shelter name was Belinda, but I quickly changed it to Nellie, an homage to my paternal grandmother (she was still living at the time, and I’m not sure she took this gesture as a positive one).
The shelter employee told me Nellie was feral, and not socialized at all. This didn’t bother me. I figured after a few weeks around me and my crazy friends, she’d be a regular lap cat.
It’s 12-and-a-half years later, and this still hasn’t happened. She spends most of her time sleeping under my bed, hiding behind some hanging clothes in the closet, or frantically sprinting away from the dog.
Sigh. The dog. On my 30th birthday, two months shy of our wedding, my fiancé came home with the most adorable beagle puppy in the world. I was smitten … but also worried about Nellie. Would she be able to adapt to an energetic puppy in the house? “Of course she will,” my husband said. Apparently, he forgot that she still hadn’t warmed up to HIM.
Now, five years later, Nellie will tolerate Cooper, but in small doses. The only time they will stand close to each other is when I open a can of tuna. Nellie also sleeps next to my pillow every night, which she has done since she was a baby.
Both animals are still trying to figure out our daughters. My 2 year old loves them both, but she doesn’t quite understand that Cooper doesn’t enjoy having her tail pulled, and that no matter how hard she tries, she will never catch that cat.
So back to Friday and the solo trip to the vet. We made it inside, and we sat in the lobby to wait. Nellie was meowing up a storm in her carrier, and Cooper was letting out a squeaky wail every five seconds (she knows what happens at the vet). To try to calm her down, I left Nellie on the chair and walked with Cooper on her leash around the building. At that moment, I had a flashback to two weeks ago, when I was with my 8 month old in the lobby at the doctor’s office, waiting for shots. She was fussy and restless, so I held her and walked around the lobby to calm her. Same deal.
When we finally got into the exam room at the vet, Nellie went first. She shed about a pound of fur and drooled half a gallon of saliva on the table, something the vet said is normal when animals are really freaking out.
While I held Nellie on the table, Cooper sat, shaking, under a chair. It reminded me of another trip to the pediatrician, when my youngest was getting tested for strep, the flu, and everything else under the sun. My toddler sat, terrified, as the baby screamed on the exam table.
Nellie was pronounced healthy for a 12-and-a-half-year-old cat, but the veterinarian did detect a heart murmur, which will require some more tests. I’m trying not to think about that right now.
With Nellie safely back in her crate, I hauled Cooper up onto the table.
During Cooper’s exam, she whimpered and stared into my eyes. I held her head against my chest and stroked her ears, telling her everything was going to be ok … the same way I hold my babies when they’re scared at a doctor’s appointment.
After Cooper survived a round of shots, blood being drawn, and an uncomfortable procedure (we’ll leave it at “express” and “glands”), we were discharged. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to buy them treats … similar to the way I make a beeline to Target with my girls after a rough day, buying more Peppa Pig toys that we REALLY don’t need.
As we drove home, Cooper crawled into my lap. All 32 pounds of her. And while normally I’d not let her do this, today, I let her.
When we got home, Cooper curled up on the couch, Nellie ran under the bed, and I retrieved the carpet cleaner and retreated to my bedroom closet.
I love my pets dearly. It’s a different love than what I have for my kids, of course. But it’s a deep, maternal love. And I can’t imagine my life without them in it.